AMANDA – Al-Sisi’s Egypt (2) — The fight against ISIL

Al-Sisi’s Egypt (2) — The fight against ISILOne year ago most people had never heard of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Today the picture is very different.

ISIL has become a household name as a consequence of its barbaric acts including brutal beheadings. Spreading terror throughout large parts of northern Iraq and Syria, ISIL aims go further including grabbing territory nearer to Baghdad, in Syria and if possible make in-roads into other states in the region.

Hence, the biggest question confronting the Arab world in 2015 will be over ISILand#39s future and whether the military campaign launched by the US and the coalition forces will be successful in crushing its efforts to enlarge its self-styled caliphate. There is a lot hinging on whether ISIL can be stopped because its success is unfortunately inspiring other terroristmilitant groups in the region.

ISIL will continue with its two-pronged approach: brutal violence and bloodshed and its readiness to kill anybody who stands it its way irrelevant of their religion and a successful communications and social PR campaign targeting the regionand#39s weakest links. Namely, those parts of conservative Muslim society that are disillusioned, sidelined or oppressed by their leaderships, making them low-hanging fruit.

Egypt is no stranger to terrorism, yet it has been quite successful in keeping a lid on it, thanks to its military. The Egyptian Armed Forces are the largest in Africa and the Middle East.

In 2014, they were ranked the 13th most powerful in the world. Furthermore, there is no doubt that Egypt was and remains the dominant force in the region.

Since World War II, the balance of power has shifted twice as a result of Egyptand#39s alliances — during the1950s when Egypt led the region into a de facto alliance with the Soviet Union and in the 1970s, when then-President Anwar Sadat allied Egypt with the US.Yet Egypt is not a fortress and the success of ISIL has put Cairo on red-alert as terrorist activity has increased, in particular in the Sinai Peninsula from the Ansar Bayt Al Maqdis and also on its border with Libya where Ansar as well as other militants have capitalized on the chaos in post-Gaddafi Libya Libyaand#39s natural resources represent a large pool of wealth and funding that will finance terrorist activity not only there but also in other parts of the world.

As I wrote in my previous column, the majority of Egyptians seem to support the autocratic rule of PresidentGeneral Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who was elected following the removal from power of former President Mohammed Morsi, and his Muslim Brotherhood (MB) government, after millions of Egyptians took to the streets to protest their rule. They believe a strong military state will safeguard Egypt from instability and serious attack from ISIL.

Indeed Sisi has stated that Egypt is now the bastion of stability and security in the region that Cairo is strongly opposed to Islamic ideology and that by following Egyptand#39s example their neighbors should be able to restore their stability.However, while one Egyptian president after another has crushed militant groups, they have always resurfaced.

Furthermore, at this time part of the society, namely MB supporters, are grossly unhappy about the new military leadership of Sisi, who has labeled MB a terrorist organization and is actively looking for international support to back him on this.It is also undeniable that the recent escalation of violence in Egypt is linked to the governmentand#39s hardcore approach to the MB and its supporters.

Ansar, which has worn allegiance to ISIL, has killed hundreds of members of the Egyptian security forces over the past year and claims that ISIL has provided instructions on how to operate more effectively. ISIL also allegedly hijacked an Egyptian missile ship near the northern end of the Suez Canal in early DecemberEgyptand#39s leadership needs to act wisely.

The MB has been active in Egypt for decades and will continue to be so despite the efforts of the authorities to bury them The fact that MB supporters are increasingly isolated makes them low-hanging fruit for ISIL. Cairo needs reach out to these groups because its current policy is a ticking time bomb.

Egypt may have a strong military, but ultimately a strong state is not the state with the strongest military but the state that is the most united.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman